Will home prices depreciate second half of 2014?

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It’s no secret that the pace of home sales has slowed during 2014. So what’s ahead for real estate and the housing market? If you really want to know, Irwin Kellner, Chief Economist for MarketWatch, has some advice. In his August 19th MarketWatch.com piece (Opinion: Don’t count on U.S. consumer to save economy) he eloquently and succinctly stated, “If you are trying to discern where the economy is heading, look at the consumer.” And this applies directly to real estate too.

July housing figures from the National Association of Realtors® are due to be released this week (July housing press release August 21st); and although good news may be suggested, the numbers may be revealing of where the market is heading – and it may not be good. The NAR July 22nd (realtor.org) press release indicated that June’s existing home sales increased (compared to May 2014), however it stated that existing home sales were down 2.3% compared to the same time last year. In the area where I list and sell homes, Montgomery County single family home closings (sales), reported by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtor® (gcaar.com) also dropped off in June (decreased 1.5%); and particularly telling is July’s decrease of 16.2% compared to the same time last year, as well as the 7.4% decrease year to date (compared to last year)!

The silver lining is that NAR reported that median home prices have increased in 71% of the “measured markets.” However, 27% of the measured markets showed a decline in median home prices from last year. Montgomery County median home sale prices are moderating (according to GCAAR stats): increases were about 3% during June and about 2% during July compared to the same periods last year.

Taking Irwin Kellner’s suggestion of “looking to the consumer,” let’s look at home buyer behavior trends; which may be understood through home absorption rate (the number of homes sold compared to the number of available listings during a given time period). It should be no surprise that the home absorption rate decreases compared to recent years due to the steady growth of home inventories and the reduced number of closings. Surprising is the rate of decrease in the absorption rate (calculated from MLS data) during June and July compared to the same periods last year (a decrease of 15% and 39% respectively).

Like the average consumer, it seems that home buyers may have become a bit skittish. Kellner points out that contrary to economist’s expectations, the August report of the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment has dropped to a 10 month low. Additionally, he reported that although there has been some good news about employment, he argues that wages are not keeping up with inflation due to the nature of many newly created jobs, which are temp or part-time. Furthermore, he states that consumer savings are either low or “depleted.” Rounded out by the usual concern about job security, geopolitics, and the general economy: Kellner gives us a glimpse of today’s consumer.

As for real estate, the statistics suggest that the housing market may be at another crossroads. Homes sales have already dropped off during the busiest time of year, and it may be reasonable to expect that sales for the remaining year may also be subdued. The mediating factor will be home prices; which may eventually decline as home sellers try to be competitive with other listings, as well as entice home buyers to buy their homes.

By Dan Krell
© 2014

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Predicting 2013 home sales through housing statistics

by Dan Krell
© 2013

home sale statsMuch like a soap opera cliff hanger, 2012 home sales ended on an upward swing leaving people wanting more good news. There’s a lot expected from this year’s real estate market, so what are some of the experts saying about 2013?

The latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices (www.standardandpoors.com/indices) press release dated January 29th reported home prices rose during 2012 through November rose in 19 of 20 cities. The 10-city composite revealed an annual home price increase of 4.5% and the 20-city composite revealed a home price increase of 5.5%. And although the release described that the seasonally adjusted home prices may be an indication of a week winter housing market, there was a clear pronouncement that “…housing is clearly recovering…” and pointed out that nationwide existing home sale volume outpaced recent years’ volumes. The cities that made the most gains were the cities that experienced the most declines in home values and the highest foreclosure rates. The home price indices of the 10-city and 20-city composites are reportedly back to 2003 levels.

The National Association of Realtors® (realtor.org) reported in a February 11th press release that the national median existing single family home price increased 10% in the fourth quarter 2012 over the same period in 2011. And the Housing Affordability Index indicates that the homebuyer’s buying power is at a point where they could “comfortably” afford to purchase a home.

Fourth quarter 2012 home sales volume was reported by NAR to be the highest since the fourth quarter 2009; 23% of home sales during the quarter were from distressed home sales (short sales and foreclosures). Additionally, home sale inventory was down about 21.6% for the quarter, which is the lowest since 2001.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun was reported as saying that home sales are being energized by “pent up demand” and low inventories. He stated, “…all the conditions for strong price growth are at play.”… “Home sales are on a sustained uptrend, mortgage interest rates are hovering near record lows and unsold inventory is at the lowest level in 12 years…” Yun believes that “…supply and demand dynamics are very much at play.”

Given recent reports from various sources, it looks as if there is momentum in the real estate market. And NAR’s Dr. Yun lays out an argument for home sales that hasn’t been since 2006. But chances are that 2013 home sales will be about many factors, not just “pent up demand” or “supply and demand.” For example, it is doubtful that hedge funds will continue the bulk foreclosure buying that pushed home sales figures to almost record levels.

By themselves, housing indices are broad based measures that typically measure one aspect of the housing market; describing the variables responsible for the measures and indices is more difficult and usually a guess at what’s happening in the marketplace. In an effort to provide a more meaningful measure of the housing market, I devised a measure called the “Krell List-to-Sold Ratio;” which is the ratio of total number of listings to the total number of homes sold in any given area during any time period. The January 2013 Krell List-to-Sold Ratio for Montgomery County reveals that activity continues to be elevated; which is interpreted to mean that the year has started stronger than recent years, but not as strong as 2012.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of February 11, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.

Grading the housing market on a curve – how housing stats can be misleading

Dan Krell, Realtor®
© 2012

Home Sale StatisticsDid your teacher ever grade on a curve, where test scores are “weighted” based on the lowest and/or highest score in the class? The typical explanation for such statistical manipulation of raw test scores is to create a distribution where classmates are compared to each other, rather than how well they actually score on the usual grading scale.

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) August 22nd news release titled “Existing-Home Sales Improve in July, Prices Continue to Rise” at first glance might seem good news, but after a deeper look the news may not be as promising. The release states that the July’s total existing home sales increased 2.3% in July from June, based on July’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.47 million compared to June’s 4.37 million (realtor.org).

Although the adjusted data may have indicated a significant increase in existing home sales, the raw data may suggest something different. If you follow the links on the NAR’s press release through the website, you’ll find yourself at the page titled, “Existing Home Sales” (realtor.org/topics/existing-home-sales/data): where you’ll find a links to home sale data – which includes the “seasonally adjusted annual rate” and “not seasonally adjusted” stats.

Although July’s “seasonally adjusted annual rate” of existing home sales indicated a 2.3% increase over June’s “seasonally adjusted annual rate;” the “not seasonally adjusted” rate (e.g., the raw sales data) indicated that there was a 7.3% DECREASE in existing home sales in July compared to June, and a year to date increase of existing home sales of only 2.647%.

So, what’s the difference between “seasonally adjusted” and “not seasonally adjusted” data? Well, for that explanation, we need to follow the links to the methodology (realtor.org/topics/existing-home-sales/methodology). “Not seasonally adjusted” data is described as raw data that has been basically scrubbed for errors. However, the site states that “It is necessary to “annualize” and seasonally-adjust the existing home sales data so that month-to-month and quarter-to-quarter comparisons can be observed without seasonal variances distorting the overall picture;” thus the “seasonally adjusted annual rate” may be forward looking figure estimating a rate by which homes are selling.

And of course, many media outlets took the headline and ran with it without explaining the meaning of the “seasonally adjusted annual rate.” July’s figure gives the impression that the housing market has made significant improvement during a month where the actual number of existing homes sales decreased from the previous month. But don’t blame the NAR either: the press release contains links to pages of explanation and data for anyone to take the time to sort through and figure out.

Home Sale StatisticsStatistical analysis can be a good thing, if the statistic is meaningful and is understood. It seems as if everyone already forgot about the criticism that the NAR received last year because they announced a downward revision of existing home sales going back to 2007. If you remember, the main reason given for the revision was for “data drift” that occurred during the housing downturn; and much like other estimate revisions (such as GDP and employment figures) “re-benchmarking” is a common aspect of estimating economic data.

Regardless of what the rate of annual home sales is estimated to be, we’ll know the actual number of existing home sales at the end of the year. And at that time, we can determine what kind of year 2012 has been for housing.

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 27 , 2012. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.